The Mud Hens will enter the All-Star break with smiles after yesterday's 4-2 victory over Columbus at Fifth Third Field.
But are they smiles of happiness or relief? A little bit of both, actually.
The smiles of happiness come from a win that snapped a two-game losing streak. What's more, the victory allows the Hens to leap-frog the Clippers back into second place in the IL's West Division.
But one of the smiles of relief came from Hens starter Shane Loux, who finally won his ninth game of the season after going 0-4 with three no-decisions in his previous seven attempts at win No. 9.
“It felt like an eternity,'' said Loux of his first win since June 2. “There's always one [win] a year that's hard to get. It's nice to get the win going into the break.''
But it wasn't easy as the right-hander surrendered 10 hits in seven innings. The Clippers had runners in scoring position in nearly every frame, but Loux always seemed to find a way to escape.
“I threw some bad pitches that they hit hard, and I threw some good pitches that found the holes for hits,'' Loux said.
The Clippers tallied once in the opening inning as Charles Gipson scored on a two-out single by Fernando Seguignol that blooped just beyond the glove of Hens shortstop Omar Infante.
In the third three singles, the last by Erick Almonte, plated the Clippers' final run. But Columbus had plenty of other chances to score: Loux stranded a runner on third in the fourth inning, runners on first and second in the sixth, and got an inning-ending double play in the seventh.
“That double-play ball in my last inning was big,'' Loux said. “I was running out of gas, and for some reason I was getting kind of emotional out there.
“Getting two outs there was big.''
Meanwhile the Hens took advantage of some Columbus fielding misplays to score their runs.
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In the opening inning Gene Kingsale led off with a bunt single, then moved to third on a one-out single by Hiram Bocachica.
Four pitches later Bocachica took off for second; Clippers' catcher Brad Elwood bounced the throw to that base, and Kingsale beat the return throw to steal home standing up.
In the third inning Brandon Inge led off with a double to right; the ball tailed away from Clippers right fielder Juan Rivera, then bounced away towards the line. Two outs later Brant Ust lined a shot to left that Bobby Smith misplayed for a run-scoring double.
Kingsale then beat out a grounder between first and second, and when a throw bounced away from first baseman Nate Rolison, Ust slid in safely at home.
“They didn't make a couple of plays in the field and that gave us a chance to score some runs we don't score otherwise,'' said Hens manager Larry Parrish, who has seen his team's defense struggle all season.
“It's nice to see the shoe on the other foot.''
Toledo manufactured an insurance run in the fifth. Infante was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a daring baserunning gamble when Kingsale beat out an infield hit, then scored on Kevin Jordan's RBI double.
But there still were some anxious moments, such as in the eighth when Franklyn German pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam.
Then in the ninth Matt Anderson earned his third save with the Hens when he got Almonte to line out to Young in left with the bases loaded and two outs.
NOTES: The game was played before a crowd of 10,300, the Hens' second consecutive sellout and 14th of the season. Toledo has sold 313,738 tickets in 44 home dates, the sixth-highest single-season total in club history. ... Infante left the game in the top of the sixth after being hit on the right forearm. Parrish said the three-day break should give Infante enough time to heal so that he would not miss any games.